Independent Security Auditing – The Safe Way Forward by Lynda Moore

At TPSO Magazine, we constantly promote increased standards across the Security Industry.One of the very best ways to ensure a security team is operating efficiently and effectively is in-depth external assessment. This is becoming increasingly popular, so you may well experience an audit of this kind at some stage in the future, if you haven’t already? The leader in the UK security industry is FM Contract Watch LLP and we asked a Partner, Lynda Moore, to tell us about it.

It is dangerous in any building not to regularly test alarms, fire and evacuation procedures. When a real emergency occurs and procedures are found wanting then, quite simply, a full investigation will follow and insurers will think long and hard before necessarily agreeing to cover losses. So why should security guarding services be any different? If we don’t regularly test the service and identify any loopholes, then how can we be sure that it will stand up to a genuine intrusion?

Many companies use their own staff to regularly test the contract security that they provide, but the only real test is an independent, unannounced visit by auditors, who have no connection whatsoever to the organization and can give an unbiased view of the service provided.

At the moment, there is no official requirement for independent audits; however, it would make real sense for such audits to be a much more important part of the SIA Approved Contractor Scheme, and their results taken into consideration during the annual assessment. Likewise, such audits should also be included as a requirement for companies operating to BS 7499:2013 Static site guarding and mobile patrol service – Code of Practice. Currently, the vast majority of the inspection focuses the attention on the head office environment and documentation, but what is actually happening on site is the main concern for the customer.

In an industry where the working hours are long and the wages are often low, it is inevitable that there will be periods of time when there is an inconsistent performance and complacency sets in. Yet, this will not be identified unless the operation is tested or an intrusion occurs, possibly with catastrophic consequences, by which time it is too late.

At the moment, it is very often the end-user who takes the initiative to employ an independent company to test their security. Why do they do this? It may be part of their overall compliance, especially if they are in the financial services sector, but very often because they want reassurance that the contract company are operating to the required standards and they are getting the service they are paying for.

There are, however, a growing number of contract security companies that employ an independent organisation to test their security operation. This can be seen as a real differentiator when submitting a tender and gives the end-user some comfort that the company is confident in the service they provide. The results of these audits are shared and form an integral part of the Key Performance Indicators and Service Level Agreement and often gives these companies the edge over their competitors.

There are a wide variety of independent audits that can be carried out, including the straight forward penetration audits, to test the Security Officer’s awareness and capabilities in the event of an attempt at unauthorised entry. This could be, simply, by tailgating through the security barriers during a busy time, producing a false ID/visitor’s pass or a good story to convince the Security Officer to issue an access pass. It is a brave Security Officer who refuses entry to a smartly dressed person, carrying a briefcase and claiming to be a Director of the organisation, requesting entry out of hours as he has left his access card at home.

In some instances, especially retail and event environments, a customer service audit is more appropriate and Security Officers are tested as to their knowledge and ability to deal with issues in a professional manner. Alternatively, it may be someone acting suspiciously around the perimeter of the premises, to see if the CCTV operator is alert.

At FM Contract Watch, we have a team of experienced Security Consultants who carry out independent audits throughout the UK and it has been proven that, where independent audits are carried out on a regular basis, the level of security is heightened. The Security Officers become more alert and suspicious of individuals, challenging the reason for their presence and carefully checking their ID and documentation. Many organisations view the audits as part of an ongoing training scheme for their security team.

Independent security audits should be seen as a cost-effective benefit which complement the service that is being provided by the security contractor. It gives genuine comfort to both parties that everything possible is being done to ensure that their premises remain secure.

Lynda Moore has almost four decades of experience in the UK security industry and is currently the Managing Partner of FM Contract Watch, an independent organisation offering support services to the security guarding industry. This includes the ACS Pacesetters, a membership association for contract security companies achieving a score in the top 15% of all SIA Approved Contractors, The Silver Fox Audit Scheme which audits and tests security teams throughout the UK and Security Consultancy Services.

Lynda Moore